Realizing that You Are at Risk of Becoming like Your Partner's Psycho Ex

Have you ever found yourself at first empathizing with a new romantic partner’s suffering at the hands of their psycho ex, only to end up wondering whether their own behaviour may have played a role in their toxic dynamics ?

Gini’s ex, Mickey, was an abusive jerk who screamed at her for the pettiest reasons, threw completely absurd but scary temper tantrums and publically humiliated her.

When my relationship with her began, about a year after she had finally dumped him, I felt on top of the world. It was as if life was giving me a wonderful, completely unexpected second chance. Yet, I soon started feeling lost, wracked with anxiety and ultimately angry. Then, I realized that the things that distressed me about our relationship were frighteningly similar to his triggers.

Now I realize that this may be a slippery slope leading to victim-blaming so I’ll first state that I in no way excuse, condone or “understand” abuse of any kind. His behaviour, described below, is abhorrent and evil.

But I need to make sense of what happened, and was wondering whether anyone had experienced anything like this.

She told me that : he screamed at her because he didn’t like the way she laid in bed and ordered her to lay perfectly flat on her back.
But I noticed that : one night, I saw that she was lying in a sort of fetal position, knees raised, arms across her chest, clutching a pillow. I tried gently caressing her to get her to relax but to no avail. I asked her whether I had done something wrong but she said she was just comfortable like that. I respected her choice but couldn’t help but feel rejected. From then on, she did this every night.

She told me that : he refused to show her affection in public. Rather, he walked briskly ahead of her with his fists in his pockets while she was in tears trying to catch up with him. He’d also leave her all alone for hours at parties.
But I noticed that : at first, Gini didn’t want to hold my hand when we were out. She finally agreed to, but always found excuses to let go : her back ached, I was holding her strangely, there were people crossing our path, etc. When she did hold my hand, she either fidgetted constantly, changing her grip every minute or swinging her arm widely like little kids do.

She told me that : he tried to pressure her into buying an apartment with him and, when she didn’t like the ones he showed her, screamed that she was « impossible to please » and « sabotaging it on purpose ».
But I noticed that : early on, we had agreed to move in together for our first anniversary. When the time came to start looking for an apartment, she told me that she wasn’t ready. I suggested we wait 6 more months. She thanked me, saying it gave her time to be ready. Yet, she wasn’t any more ready 6 months later. She wasn’t even sure whether she’d be ready the following year. After 2 years, I asked her to make a decision : either stick to our plan and act at last, or forget about it and try to reinvent our relationship. I told her that I’d respect her choice but I needed clarity. She couldn’t decide ! We stayed in this limbo for 5 more months but ended up splitting over that.

She told me that : he was a real gentleman at first, but became mean after 6 months. He said that they had been together for a while so his making less effort was perfectly normal.
But I noticed that : in the beginning, Gini was incredibly affectionate. She wanted to cuddle all the time, put moisturizing cream on my hands, combed my hair and hid surprise treats in my bag before I left for work. She called me several times a day. After 3 months however, she turned cold and aloof. She stayed in the bedroom alone without any explanation for extended periods of time. She talked very little, missed my calls, and showed up extremely late, sometimes not at all, to our rendez-vous.

She told me that : she called him after a particularly bad day to ask him to come to her place and comfort her. He said that he was at work but that he’d be finished shortly. Three hours later, she called him back and he said he was about to leave. At midnight she called him again but he never answered. She cried herself to sleep that night.
But I noticed that : Gini was obsessed with work. She worked from dawn until night on weekdays. She worked on weekends. She worked on holidays. We worked a lot from home but, although we sat at the same desk, she would totally ignore me for hours on end. That left us with little time together, and then, she was often so tired that all she wanted to do was sleep. I felt that our relatrionship was a low priority to her.

She told me that : when he wanted her attention, he snapped his fingers and pointed towards his feet yelling «Here !»
But I noticed that : Gini often acted as if I wasn’t there. She’d walk past me many times and not acknowledge my presence. I talked to her and she didn’t react. I often had to repeat the same question 3 times before she answered.

She told me that : he screamed at her because she took too much time getting ready in the morning.
But I noticed that : since we worked for the same company, we carpooled to work. She often started some time-consuming activity minutes before we had to leave, making me late for my meetings. She was never late for hers.

She told me that : he referred to her family as «freaks» and once said that her friends were «down there» while waving dismissively towards his feet.
But I noticed that : We were together for 2 ½ years. In all of that time, she didn’t introduce me to a single person she knew. Not one. She didn’t even didn’t mention my existence to anyone. I felt like I was a ghost in her life.

She told me that : he openly ogled girls in the streets and made lewd comments to her about their bodies. Their relationship ended when he called her to say that he needed to see her. He lived in another town so it took her 2 hours to get there. He was with a girl. «I wanted to introduce my girlfriend to you», he said.
But I noticed that : Gini laid her phone screen down hurriedly whenever I came near. She sprayed men’s perfume in her bag before going out. One day, she got an email from a male coworker that ended with « Thanks, you’re a doll ». She just smiled at the wildly inapproriate language. She once had a meeting with 4 women and 1 man, all strangers. She read only the guy’s CV and actually memorized it. When I met her, she complained that a coworker was harassing her. I later found out she’d been on several dates with him, including one in an upscale restaurant.

Posted this before reading the follow up to the OP. After reading that follow up post I hope the OP dumps this woman who is generally dishonest and manipulative.

In response to the question in the OP, sort of experienced it, and I’ve seen it other times. One thing I’ve noticed are some people who claim to be victimized by a control freak partner. Sometimes a close look reveals they aren’t victims of control freaks, instead they are out of control freaks who bristle at any notion they have responsibilities and promises to fulfill. Their ex’s are described as psychos but they’re actually having a normal reaction to people who are unreliable or worse. Normal would not include violence but it’s reasonable for such people to be angry and harbor resentment. It’s also the kind of problem unlikely to resolve if they stay together.

Welcome to the Straight Dope, the best place to go to tell strangers, unprompted, the intimate details of a problematic relationship!

Well, thefact that you’re all strangers makes it easier for me. Sorry.

One last note.

It goes without saying that Mickey’s abusive behaviour was wrong and repulsive. He couldn’t control his rage and that’s 100% on him. He deserves neither excuses nor pity.

What about Gini, though ? Mickey reportedly once told her « You’re a mean person after all ». I don’t know. What I do know is that what I’ve described above made me feel deeply distraught throughout our 2 ½ years together. Was she like this out of cluelessness ? She’d had a frighteningly strict upbringing and once described herself as « socially handicapped » when she entered university because she didn’t know how to talk to people. I once asked her why she had stayed with such a bully for 3 years and she answered « I grew up in a dysfunctional family, how could I know what a healthy relationship was ? » Perhaps that’s it. But I can’t be totally sure.

As for me, I took some real pride from the fact that, during our first 2 years together, I never lost my nerve. Out of respect for her, but also for myself. Although we had plenty of tense conversations, we had only a couple of quick and relatively tame arguments. But that changed when we hit the 2-year mark. I just couldn’t stand the lack of development of our relationship anymore, so I let all the resentment, the suspicions and the pain out. We had reached the end and we both knew it.

It is incumbent on all of us in relationships to have the strength to walk away rather than become abusive. Mickey did not, and deserves 100% of the blame for his abusive behavior towards Gini.

Gini, for all of her legitimately frustrating faults (taking the OP at face value) deserves only to be broken up with.

I understand that you’re trying to figure out what happened / is happening, but it’s not worth the effort. Dump her and get on with your life, and don’t get fooled again!

You’re right and I came to realize this gradually.

But it took a long time for me to admit it. That woman had a lot going for her. As I said in the other thread,

Moreover, she had a lot of charm. It’s not just that she was very pretty. First, not trying to brag, but I’ve been lucky in having relationships with other very pretty women in my “glory days”. Heck, my ex-wife would have given her a run for her money. Second, there are many pretty women who have no charm whatsoever. But Gini… that woman was… addictive.

For the record, we broke up three weeks ago. And while I’ll probably forever feel nostalgic about the illusion I fell in love with (our first couple of months together were magical), I realize that I don’t really miss her, so that’s good.

What are the odds that Gini is telling her new boyfriend what an abusive psycho Moonrise is?

Well, since she didn’t mention my existence to anyone during our 2 ½ years together, I doubt it’s the case.

It’s probably a red flag when someone has only been in bad or abusive (or really short) relationships. It may mean they lack the skills or the character or the motivation to be in a good one.

Yes, I have. More often than not, BOTH partners contribute to their irreconcilable relationship. You don’t have a white hat partner and a black hat partner. This sounds like one of those situations. Remember, especially in this kind of situation, “There are two sides to every story.”


This is dangerously close to a thread shit.

You’re not required to take someone’s post seriously, but neither are you obliged – or encouraged – to post in threads where you don’t take the OP seriously. Please refrain from doing this. Thanks.

Not a warning.

I’ve had a girlfriend in the past who was constantly talking about the “Mental and Emotional Abuse” all her ex-boyfriends “dealt her”.

Turns out the way to mentally and emotionally abuse her is to simply contradict her at all or call her out for her outrageous lies.

Yes Dear, your doctor did tell you that drinking to excess every single day is actually HEALTHY because beer is mostly water and water hydrates you.

My bad.

Gini said that she’d only had two relationships before me. It seems really few, especially considering how pretty she was, but it was plausible. Her pathologically controlling father had quite simply prevented her from having friends (not just boyfriends, any friends) until she was well into her mid-20s.

Then, she met someone when she was about 25 and basically ran away with him. She never talked much about him although they were together for about 7 years (and probably married at some point as I found out fortuitously). She said he was never really mean to her, just very condescending. I think she left him over some financial issues.

Then, there was Mickey (3 years) and then me (2 ½ years).

At least, that’s what she told me although she did mention a few other guys about whom she knew surprisingly much, like their hygiene routine for example. One thing that struck me is the number of guys who had behaved inappropriately with her. All the women I have known had 3-4 horror stories of being subjected to some creep’s unwanted attention but Gini had a dozen stories like this, from her studies through her previous jobs to her current position in our company.

I don’t know man. This is like the third thread I’ve seen you start that would seem to relate to this ex of yours “Gini”. Basically from what I can tell you dodged a bullet…eventually.

I say go and use your newfound freedom to find someone who isn’t …problematic.

I agree, and the OP sounds like he’s describing exactly this, both his relationship with her, and her prior one.

Thats not been my experience. Ive been in relationships where Ive done nothing wrong and was treated like crap.

It’s my second thread that’s related to Gini, which isn’t her real name of course (and neither is Mickey).

All of this mess is still fresh in my memory and I’m trying to make sense of it. On the other hand, I also try to make sure these threads are not just about me, which is why I ask whether anyone here has had similar experiences. But I understand it can be awkward to read about this. As a matter of fact, this should be my last thread that’s directly linked to her, although she’ll probably crop up indirectly in future threads.

That’s what I plan on doing… eventually. It’s too soon, I’m taking some time for myself first, just playing the piano, cycling and posting here, not meeting anyone at the moment. The good thing is that I don’t really miss her. I think I had already moved on shortly before we broke up.

But the thing is, I don’t trust my gut feeling anymore. When I met Gini, I felt an immediate certainty that I could trust her 100%, something that had never happened before. She came across as utterly guileless. So much so that, to this day, I can’t help but wonder whether I messed up big time at some point early on, which prevented her from feeling completely comfortable with me. But then, I think back on the very beginning, and realize that there were already some subtle red flags, which I didn’t pay attention to because they seemed to be weird outliers in her general behaviour.